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You Can't Iron a Wrinkled Birthday Suit

You Can't Iron a Wrinkled Birthday Suit

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You Can't Iron a Wrinkled Birthday Suit

4.5/5 (7 ratings)
371 pages
7 hours
Oct 4, 2011


"When I get old, I hope to have friends as awesome as these. This is an absolutely feel good novel. Naturally, our intrepid characters, wattles and all, undergo all sorts of trials, but it's the compassion and generosity they exhibit that endears the reader." -- Sam Sanders, via NetGalley

Zany families, eccentric friends, and ne-er-do-well neighbors inhabit the labyrinthine lives of three women friends as they grapple with real world events in one "Golden Year."

An unwelcome visit from local law enforcement, a younger friend's romantic chaos, and the death of a parent combine with daily mundanities---laundry, scones, and senior sex---to create a walloping, raucous read.

Opinionated pets---critics and alter egos---offer a rich counterpoint to the human dramas affecting their lives.

Unfiltered and compelling, this entertaining sago provides readers of all ages with a new and positive view of growing older.

Oct 4, 2011

About the author

A graduate of Rutgers with a degree in English, Sharon Phennah devoted a lifetime to canine coiffure. Conducting her grooming in clients' homes, Sharon spent fifty years observing canines and humans in their "natural habitat." Sharon also trained in landscape design and built a passive solar home in Dublin, New Hampshire, in 1983. Currently retired from dog grooming, Sharon lives in North Carolina with her Corgi and cat, enjoying writing, genealogy, and photography.

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  • Grace poured them each more coffee and took another muffin.

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You Can't Iron a Wrinkled Birthday Suit - Sharon Phennah



Operation Wonder Woman

Silhouetted against the denim sky, two women ascended a ladder behind the yellow brick McClellan building, Pine Crossing’s defunct five-and-dime store. The third woman, meant to be steadying the ladder, threw up in a forsythia bush. She assigned her queasiness to the hour—four in the morning—and the garish green view through her night-vision goggles.

With ease, the three-part extension ladder reached the parapet of the second-story roof. Seventy-something Grace, clad in a black spandex outfit, her Tide-white hair stuffed under an ancient black bathing cap, went first. The most athletic of the three women, she scampered up the ladder like a spider in a hurry, her grandson’s paintball gun bungee-corded to her backpack, her waist pack bulging with paintballs.

As she climbed, Grace reflected on the moment. How exactly had she gotten here? Wacky ideas were the trio’s forte, Grace realized, but this caper was off the charts. Hazel, now wiping her mouth at the bottom of the ladder, had been one of her more creative physical education students in high school. Hazel had married the day after graduation, then vanished for many years into Grace’s mental file labeled former students.

Recently retired from New Jersey to Pine Crossing, North Carolina, Grace had been passing a Humane Society Adopt-A-Thon at the local pet supply store one day when she stopped in her tracks. There was something familiar about the woman returning a kitten to its crate. What was her name? Hazel? Yes, Hazel.

In the conversation that had followed, Grace discovered that Hazel, now a widow, was also a recent émigré from New Jersey. The friend with Hazel that day, Gus, was her newly rediscovered college friend, a transplant from New England.

Now living in the downtown home she’d inherited from her parents, Hazel insisted Grace and Gus come to dinner that evening, and the rest, as they say, became wonder woman history.

In Grace’s mind, Hazel was an ordinary woman with a middle-class upbringing and outlook, but now and then, she became a radical activist—this morning being a case in point. Hazel’s support for Bruce, her significant other, was unqualified. As board member and pro-bono counsel for the Historical Prevention Society, he wanted with all his heart and soul to save the McClellan building. Therefore, so did Hazel; and therefore, here they were on this ladder.

Looking down at Gus, Grace smiled to herself—Gus was a good friend. Not quite sixty, Gus still worked part-time as a vet tech, so she didn’t have as much free time, but she showed up for every plot and plan, kvetching, just like now.

Let’s move it, Gus said, groaning as she tested the second rung. She, too, wondered how she got here. Time and sleep were precious commodities and this wasn’t on her to-do list. Nevertheless, friends were friends. Hazel had helped her rescue countless animals from euthanasia and listened to her conundrums over the years. And even though there’d been that hiatus while Hazel was married and raising her kids, college friendships have a special glue. Gus smiled as she recalled the day her cart collided with Hazel’s in the Pine Crossing supermarket a dozen years ago. Her interest in straightening out the offending party stifled, becoming tears of joy when she realized Hazel was the errant shopping cart driver.

Sighing, Gus struggled up the ladder. Her over-fifty-and-a-few-extra-pounds body with her mismatched black ensemble suggested an adventuresome tortoise. She mumbled into the cool spring air, This is what friends do, it’s only two stories, it’s what friends do. She wondered about Hazel, but knew better than to look down until she reached the rooftop.

On the ground, brusquely wiping her mouth, Hazel collected her dignity and stepped on the bottom rung as if it were the first step to the gallows. Dubbed their fearless leader because this was her idea, she shifted her backpack to support the sling chair on her shoulder. Closing her eyes, she hoisted her XXL body upward, tilting the ladder.

EEEK! Gus screamed as softly as she could, I almost slipped!

Sorry, Hazel mouthed. Then in frustration, she yelled, You’re supposed to hang on!

Sheesh! Hush you two! Pay attention! The admonition floated down from Grace, now standing on the roof. Hands on her knees, she caught her breath and pushed her packs and paintball gun aside so Gus could plop over the wall. Shaking, Gus did just that, using the wall as leverage to lurch to her feet.

Hazel muttered, I think I can, I think I can, into her bosom with each step on the ladder. Without warning, her mind overloaded with images of her derriere as viewed from the ground. What if there are pictures, TV news? Sweating in her night-vision goggles, Hazel focused her eyes on one rung at a time. She reached the top and froze.

"Hazel! Look at me!" Gus commanded as she and Grace hauled her over the wall, losing the sling chair, which landed in a small tree at the base of the building.

Why did you two let me talk you into this? Hazel wailed, righting herself and shedding her packs to bury her face in her hands. You know I hate heights. What if this mission fails? And what about the media? All I could imagine on that ladder was my huge butt attached to wobbly, stretch-marked thighs. Hazel howled through her fingers.

Grace rolled her eyes and walked away to inspect their rooftop domain.

Trying to reassure Hazel, Gus exclaimed, "So, what . . . I’m a bathing beauty? This is a fabulous ensemble? So chic, yet so comfortable, she continued, yanking the crotch of her cut-off leotards below her knees. Next, she grabbed the spare tire around her belly, flapping it toward Hazel. And this is my six-pack abs! Into it now, Gus danced around, wagging her butt cheeks and flapping her underarm wings. I’m a real sex queen if you’re into flab, cellulite, and blue veins."

Gus waggled on until Hazel finally sniffed okay okay and pulled a tissue from the folds in her clothing. How about some gum?

Sure, Gus replied as Hazel fished in her pack.

Grace appeared a beat later, her hands full of five-gallon plastic buckets she’d scavenged near the front of the building.

Look what I found, she sang out. Seats and a latrine! There’s lots of stuff over there, and the roof seems solid to me. Who said there were holes in it? Grace distributed the pails upside down with one in the middle for a table. She placed the last bucket, right side up, between the chimney and the air vent and stood back to admire her handiwork, spanking her hands together. That’s done.

Hazel handed Gus a piece of gum and inhaled through her teeth, squinting doubtfully at the pail by the chimney. Gus grimaced as if she had just sucked a lemon or worse. Latrine indeed, Gus thought. I’d explode first.

Where’s my chair? Hazel asked, looking around as she handed Grace the gum.

It fell when we dragged you off the ladder, Grace explained, deadpan. "It’s in a treetop. We couldn’t save both the chair and your pack of coffee and scones."

I took a swipe at the chair, Gus consoled, but I missed.

Well, was all Hazel said, so the women tested the pails and chewed their gum.

Look yonder, Gus said, pulling off her goggles. First light. It must be around six. Let’s reconnoiter. What’s the plan, Hazel?

In a minute, Hazel replied, pushing up from her pail. She walked to the wall and looked down at her chair in the tree, locking into a morbid fascination with the height, wondering if she’d survive a fall, what her injuries might be, what it would feel like.

Looks way higher from up here than from down there, Hazel said as Grace and Gus flanked her. Hazel stepped away from the wall. I can’t believe I climbed that ladder.

It’s just two stories, Gus answered, raising her gaze to neighboring rooftops, most of which were similar to this one. If there was a fire, you’d be the first to jump.

Shut your mouth, Augusta Roberts, Hazel admonished, shuddering as she took a last look at the ground. "Besides, this is the floor of the third story!"

Regaining their seats, the women assessed their situation. They had plenty of supplies: coffee, water, granola bars, sandwiches, fold-n-stow straw hats, sunscreen, and charged cell phones.

"Okay. Now, Hazel, what’s the plan?" Gus asked.

You know the plan, was Hazel’s retort.

Let’s go over it again; make sure we’re all on the same page, Grace soothed, her goggles draped over her shoulder.

Okay, Hazel sighed, placing her goggles on top of her head. She straightened her back and replied in exaggerated official-ese, "You have already been informed that my beloved significant other, Mr. Bruce D. Winston, pro-bono counsel for the Historical Preservation Society, acquired back-channel information that the Lewis and Son Devoted Demolition crew, employed by the United Fundamental Church, will arrive at this site between oh eight hundred and oh nine thirty with intent to demolish said building. Place of interment, the landfill.

Now, we also know that The Historical Preservation Society versus The United Fundamental Church is the first case on the docket today in court. Court convenes at ten hundred and adjourns at twelve thirty sharp. Hazel pointed to the north toward the courthouse. A verdict is expected at that time. If the verdict favors Bruce—I mean, the Society—it would be good for the building to be standing, yes? And that is why we are here. To prevent the demolition until the hearing adjourns.

Okay, so we hold the fort no matter what, until reinforcements from Bruce materialize, Gus confirmed like a true soldier.

A-plus! Hazel clapped, sitting down hard enough to push her pail into the asphalt, stopping its wobble. To answer your question about the roof, Grace, someone from the church said the roof’s disrepair is so extensive that replacement costs would be more than the building’s assessed value.

"Why am I thinking Alamo defended by three blue hairs? Gus got up and rummaged in Hazel’s pack. Coffee anyone?"

Over coffee served by Gus and crumbled scones, the women watched the light brighten this misty spring morning. The shadows of nearby branches, stirred by a gentle breeze, seemed to finger and play with the litter on the rooftop. For a few minutes, this odd beauty in motion soothed their spirits until Hazel broke the spell by shrieking, "The ladder! We forgot to pull up the ladder!"

Making enough noise for a small machine shop, the women levered, yanked, and slid the ladder up and over, laying it along the wall. Puffing and red-faced, they returned to their pails.

"As to how we hold the fort, Gus began, I’m guessing we’ll stick to being undiscovered until the last minute, letting the wrecking ball or backhoe make the first move?"

Yes, Hazel replied. It’s vital that they don’t know we’re here until the last safe instant. Once they know we’re here, they will focus on getting us off the roof. The less time they have for that, the better. But if we wait too long, we may tumble down with the building. The hard part will be keeping them occupied until court is over.

We can handle that, Grace said, leaning forward, elbows on her knees, face cupped in her hands.

Yeah, but . . . Gus answered, swallowing some coffee, while they try to get us down, what if they hose or foam us, or whatever they do now, maybe net us?

Stop it, Gus, Grace commanded. No matter what they do, someone has to get up here and physically remove us, even if they shoot us with tranquilizer darts from a helicopter.

Okay, okay, Gus conceded, so we hold them off, we get home, and we’ve accomplished what? I mean, yes, the building will stand, but what then?

Grace stood, pushing Hazel, who was half risen and wholly irritated, back on her pail. Gus, I know you think this building is just a bunch of yellow bricks laid in a two-story rectangle, she chided.

You bet I do, Grace. There’re thousands of old five-and-dimes all over the country. Gus got up and began pacing. Don’t be hollering at me, either of you, for what I think. If I weren’t your crazy friend, I’d be asleep in my bed with my cat for a hat. A cold Corgi nose would wake me, and I’d begin my day like a sensible person with coffee and the paper. Gus stopped and looked at Hazel. "And today I’d be taking the dogs to the groomer instead of my neighbor Irene having to do it. I don’t think she can handle all five dogs at once, and I don’t want to end up with a pissed-off, used-to-be-my-friend neighbor."

Aha! Hazel said triumphantly. "That’s what’s eating you. The dogs! She crossed her fingers in her pocket and said, Irene will be okay. I told her to leave my Lady Labrador and just take the Poms, so she’s just got four dogs."

"Thanks, Haze. I feel way better knowing she’s only taking four. You know Shear Charisma’s too close to the highway if, God forbid, one of them slips a leash. Gus sat with a resigned thump on her pail, adding, Geez, it’s already getting hot. What time is it?"

Gus, your animals have you too well-trained, Hazel said.

Gang, it’s seven oh two on a fine, spring morning, Grace said at last, throwing her hands up. She was in no mood for their bickering right now. Sitting again on her pail, she picked up her coffee and lapsed into thought.

A few moments slipped past as the women sipped coffee. The sun was well above the horizon, over-warming their backs.

Look, Gus spoke up, conciliating, I know my history. This building is Pine Crossing’s civil rights symbol. Our sit-in occurred the week after the first one in Greensboro. I even looked up our date, which I couldn’t find, but Greensboro’s was February 1, 1960, so our sit-in was around the eighth. Their lunch counter’s in a museum, while ours is moldering downstairs. That’s not right.

Gus went on, I’ve been in protest marches and sit-ins since the sixties. I’m sorry if I act like a turkey, but I need a really good reason for being hot and upsetting all my fifty-something joints. I swore off doing this after Seabrook in the eighties, when I was scorched on all sides from the sun above and its reflection off the parking lot. We have a similar sun situation here, gang, and I’m not convinced that if we succeed, it’ll make a difference. Can the Historical Society afford to buy the building? What is its planned use? This seems like an exercise in futility to me.

Hazel leaned over and patted Gus’s hand. "This is hard for me too, Gus. The main thing is, if and only if, the court rules in favor of the Historical Preservation Society, we are gaining time to get money together and wrest, excuse me, buy this building from the church. The church has made it clear they intend to demolish the McClellan and create yet another park, period. Hazel’s face was a study in disdain. The building could be a museum, artists’ studios, or a collection of small shops. I hate the thought, but a well-designed parking garage would be more practical than a park!"

Grace emerged from her rumination. Think. How cool would it be if this old store were restored to its original state? Our collective childhood memories would be resurrected, and our kids and grandkids could experience what we talk about. Remember the sheer sensual pleasure of the fans chuffchuffing over head, the popcorn smell, the feel and sound of hardwood under foot, especially bare feet? Do you think that angle would attract support?

Yeah, it might, Hazel said, smoothing her hair. How about being able to play with the toys? And touching the grownup things too, garter belts and girdles? No plastic wrap! I bought my first bra in a five-and-dime after I examined all the others too. I was fascinated by the different sizes and shapes.

"Yeah, I couldn’t imagine how someone would wear those huge D cups, Gus said, her eyes sparkling in recollection. Even better, it was okay to play a 45 rpm record before we bought it. And they had the best grilled cheese sandwiches and rootbeer floats."

Good lord, Gus, Hazel exclaimed, looking at her chest. Doubt I’ll ever wear a D cup again! We had it good in those days.

Grace looked at her watch. It was now eight thirty. Yeah, I love the old days and I’d support a restoration of the five-and-dime, but we’ve got to do today right first. Let’s move everything over by the chimney where it won’t be seen. That’s where any scrap of shade will be too.

Incoming! Hazel screamed, a decibel or two above the staccato of diesel engines, squealing brakes, and grinding gears. What time is it?

Showtime, Gus shot back, putting on her sweatband. Grace duck-walked to the wall, while Gus and Hazel half knelt, half crawled in the soft, grainy asphalt.

The trucks and yellow crane stopped and took their places on the side where the ladder had been. The women held their breath. Could the men see the sling chair? They scuttled closer to the wall and, like three large Meerkats, popped up for a look, disappearing even faster.

Gus and Hazel, their attitude changing from excitement to impatience after fifteen minutes, leaned against the wall and communicated by mime and exaggerated facial expressions. Grace checked on the men every three minutes, frustrated with the seemingly endless posturing, pointing, crotch-scratching, and coffee-drinking taking place on the ground. What’s happening now? Hazel whined, shifting her position yet again.

Some of the men are leaving. Maybe they need more coffee or forgot something, Grace replied, irritation in her tone.

You made a fine butt-print, Gus whispered to Hazel, who had turned and got on her hands and knees.

Ouch! This feels like kneeling on grits! Hazel sat back down.

"Daddy, when’re we gonna beee there?" Grace chortled, glancing at her friends.

Gus flipped Grace the bird. Her butt was stuck on the roof, her feet straight out in front of her. Hazel was now similarly positioned. Two beached whales came to Gus’s mind, but she kept quiet and the women waited.

At nine thirty, there was a new noise. While Gus and Hazel struggled to stand, Grace looked over the parapet and saw the reason for the noise. The crane was running, and its boom with a ball at the cable’s end swung toward the building. Stark reality swept over them.

Stop! Hazel yelled, standing toes to the wall.

Gus shoved two fingers in her mouth and whistled the loudest whistle in her repertoire.

Grace had the paintball gun loaded. She took aim and shot toward the crane’s windshield. Damn! I missed the entire cab! Damn! Damn!

You hit the tracks, though, Hazel said, pointing at the red blotch.

I hope he sees us! Gus yelled, waving at the men, her triceps flapping like semaphore flags.


Let the Games Begin

Holy Sweet Mother of God!" the crane operator bellowed as he wrenched the boom and ball levers and throttled back the engine. The foreman jumped on the crane’s tracks and yanked the cab door open.

Am I effin’ seein’ things? he shouted, a foot from the operator’s ear.

The ball swung low, like a pendulum, parallel to the wall.

The operator turned off the engine and removed his ear protectors. Quit yellin’, I’m right here. There’s friggin’ people on the roof.

"Dammit, I know that, the foreman exclaimed, pointing at the red blotch on the crane track. They shot something. Look at that red paint. Did you see that?"

Effin’ A, I did. I looked up and I’d swear I saw white hair. The sun gave ‘em halos. Scared the crap outta me.

This sucks. I’m callin’ The Boss.

You do that. I’ll be in my truck with my coffee. You want some?

After I call The Boss, you bet. He’ll be after our asses, big time. He wants the hammer down on this job.

Herman Lewis didn’t like interruption or inconvenience, and his foreman had given him both. Still in his golf clothes, though he’d had to cancel his tee time, a red-faced Herman erupted from his truck and slammed the door. A swaggering, corpulent man, he behaved like a barnyard rooster. He got a bead on you with his shifty eyes, and when he had your attention, he jabbed you with his spurs. In every negative way, he was The Boss.

What’s the trouble here? Herman demanded of the foreman and the crane operator. The other men, back with coffee and a part for the dump truck, lurked on the periphery, scoping out The Boss’s mood. It wasn’t good.

There’re three old ladies up on that roof, sir, the foreman replied.

They shot the crane with a paint ball, the operator added, That sure got my attention.

Herman shaded his balding brow, chewed on the tip of his cigarillo, and squinted into the sun, now bright behind the roof of the McClellan building. The church promised to pay him double for this job, but only if it was finished today. That meant everything to him. If removing just one remaining brick was left for tomorrow, pay would be regular rate.

Herman squinted upward to the roof. His men were right. He made out three old ladies, white hair shimmering like halos in the backlighting of the sun. Damn! Wiping his eyes with a monogrammed handkerchief, Herman turned back to the foreman. "Call the cops, call the fire department, call the Marines if you have to, but get them off that roof and tear that building down! No work, no pay, Herman sniggered. Don’t call me again until that building is gone!"

The Boss strode to his truck and sped away, spewing chunks of grass and gravel over his men and equipment.

Safe for the moment, the women retreated to a shady spot near the chimney and passed around sunscreen, an assortment of sandwiches, and bottled water.

I know that guy from somewhere, Hazel mumbled as she chewed.

Which guy? The Boss? Gus poured some of her water on her head.

"Yeah, The Boss. I know him and that red, double-cab, dually diesel with hemi and indestructible bed-liner. I just can’t place him at the moment. Hazel sighed and wiped her face. It’ll come to me. What time is it? Eleven thirty," Grace answered, peeling down to her tank top. Sweat flowed in twin rivulets along her backbone. She stuffed her shirt into her backpack.

Gus and Hazel were cutting their eyes at Grace and to one another, envying her wiry build, when sirens erupted from every direction.

Half a dozen police cars arrived, screeching to sidewise stops on Glover and Main streets. In moments, officers barricaded the sidewalk on Main Street in front of the McClellan and cordoned off the whole block of Glover Street.

Hanging over the wall, Grace nudged Gus, They’ve got a good protocol. The area’s secure and it looks like that young guy on the phone is in charge. All in six minutes.

OIC, Grace. He’s the Officer in Charge. Could be my grandson, Gus reflected.

Only if your kid had a kid at fifteen. He’s way over thirty.

You think? Gus leaned further out to more thoroughly examine the officer. He was tall and well built, not all muscle, but not skinny either. Maybe he’s a runner, Gus thought. The man lifted his hat and wiped his brow, revealing male pattern balding in the center of his head.

You’re right, Grace, more likely my son, Gus acknowledged. He’s forty-something, but he looks wicked fine to me.

Uh-oh, Hazel said as she joined them. I remember now who The Boss is. His name is Herman and he used to date Bruce’s ex-wife. They watched as the OIC closed his phone and a few words floated up to the women.

. . . around front . . . alley over there . . . fire department.

As his men dashed off to follow his orders, the OIC tilted his head back and stared at the women. The wellbeing of the women comes first, he thought, but the Lewis crew has rights too, no matter how I feel. For sure, he had the women for trespassing.

You ladies up there okay? You know you’re trespassing?

We’re fine, Grace shouted back. Hot, but we’re fine.

Hazel drew on all her dignity, hoping it showed in her words. We want to thank the crane operator for stopping. He prevented a disaster. He’s a hero and everyone should know that.

You don’t belong there in the first place. You could have been hurt, even killed. The OIC appeared hot in his dark uniform, and his hat was sliding around on sweat as he peered up.

You look uncomfortable, Grace yelled. She held up her phone, pointed at it. Call me at five, three, seven, seven, oh, seven, oh.

Get back from the wall, the OIC replied, now red-faced. He caught his cap slipping off his head and dropped it on the hood of his cruiser. He motioned to a returning officer. Over here. What did you find?

The building’s locked, sir. We have no idea how they got up there.

They’ve got to come down. It was The Boss’s foreman that called me. You know who I mean, Herman Lewis. He said this job must be done today. The OIC adjusted his belt and shifted his weight to his left foot.


Yes? the OIC responded.

The other officer shuffled his feet. Yes sir, I know Herman. Pardon me, sir, but I have to ask. Have you seen any paperwork for this demolition?

No, I haven’t. Herman should know better than that after our last go-around. Well, Job One is to get those women down. Call the fire chief and see if he can spare a ladder truck while I talk to the women.

The OIC backed into the shade behind the forsythia where Hazel had thrown up and called the fire chief only to have his request denied. There might be a fire. A traffic officer suggested contacting the cable TV company for use of their bucket truck.

Do it, said the OIC to the traffic officer as he punched in Grace’s number.

A crowd had gathered behind the yellow caution tape: tourists, workers on lunch break, curious business owners, all asking each other and the officers what was going on. Half of them were on cell phones to friends and a small boy let go of his helium birthday balloon. For a few minutes, his howls drowned all conversation.

Hi, officer, Grace answered efficiently. How can I help you?

Two TV sound trucks arrived, the reporters and cameramen hustling through the crowd, zeroing in on the OIC. He waved them to an officer beside a barricade, threatening them with charges for ignoring the yellow tape.

Frustrated and hot, the OIC chose a stern but fatherly approach, hoping it would have the desired effect on these women and convince them to come down without further ado. You need to come down here. Then you can tell me what you think you’re doing. If you cooperate, maybe we can help. You’ve already broken several laws—don’t make it worse for yourselves.

Just a minute, sir, Grace said, holding the phone tight to her chest while pulling Hazel closer with her other hand. "He sounds like a Law ‘n’ Order rerun. You better talk to him. He wants to know what we’re doing."

Hazel took the phone, trilling in her best Hyacinth Bucket voice, Officer, this is Hazel Hollister, resident of Pine Crossing. Did you ask why we’re up here?

Yes, ma’am, I did. I must also inform you that unless you come down immediately, you will be considered under arrest and anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

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  • (5/5)
    If we are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, is it allowable to make our reading choices based upon titles? Because that's what prompted me to request this book written by *Sharon Phennah* from, and why I was so pleased to be approved to read it in exchange for my honest review. Creative titles usually get my attention, and for the most part, it works for me. But in this case, it was like striking gold! In spite of the fact that I do not usually read books with or about animals (way too contrived for my taste), in this book, the dogs were a very entertaining part of the story as well as a useful device for getting more information to the reader than the humans were collecting. By the time I finished the book, I was halfway convinced that there is a network of communicating dogs out there who may quite possibly be smarter and funnier than their owners.The humans, however, do dominate the story, and what a spunky, unique group of women they are. They not only support each other, they unconditionally like each other enough to get involved in situations that could be against each one's better judgment. For example, the beginning of the book concerns a caper wherein three of the women - Grace, Hazel, and Gus (Augusta) - have agreed to support the local Historical Preservation Authority by climbing to the roof of the McClellan building thereby preventing it from being demolished before the group can get a court ruling stopping demolition completely. The McClellan building was formerly the local 5&10 Cent store, and many of the town's citizens believe it should be restored as a historical site. Those who disagree with this position are the ones who stand to make money on the land deal when the building is gone, and that includes what Lewis & Son Devoted Demolition Crew will earn for completing the job in one day. All the Historical Preservation Authority want is to get a court ruling on their petition to save the building. The decision is expected by noon, which will be too late for the building since Lewis & Son shows up at the crack of dawn. So Grace and Hazel are the first two to climb the ladder to the roof. Gus, who is supposed to be keeping the ladder steady, is also throwing up in a Forsythia Bush. First the fire department is called to remove the women from the premises, but they refuse to come to the site because they say if there's an alarm given for a fire during that time, no one would be available to cover it. Next the police are brought in, but the women have arranged the situation in such a way that it's nearly impossible to get them off the premises. The cliff hanger is whether the women can hold up long enough for the court decision to be useful to the cause -- if in fact, the ruling is found in favor of the historical group.No one could have foreseen the repercussions this would have on the members of the little group of friends, particularly upon Hazel's significant other, Bruce Winston. What happens to him could very well ruin the rest of his life and intrude drastically on the future he and Hazel have envisioned for themselves.Hazel, Grace, Gus, and Marigold form the base of this group of friends, but each one has her own place in the novel along with her dog. A fifth hanger-on of the group is Irene, friend to Gus, who occasionally is called upon to help when Gus needs to include her. Not everyone takes to Irene mainly because she runs a shop called Such Happenis Adult Toys. Together these women share adventures as well as personal tragedy. While the McClellan caper was called "Operation Wonder Woman", the group are all women who deal with life's challenges knowing someone will always have their backs should they need it. In other words, they are average women with all the problems that go with aging. Phennah explores Alzheimer's, illnesses, and other issues that have an affect on us all. And then there is that group of dogs. Their visits to Shear Charisma Grooming Shop are often funny, occasionally sad, and always entertaining. My favorite dog was Butterbean Gus' dog, and also the one who keeps most of the gossip straight. Butterbean is a Corgi, and if I ever were to own a dog (highly unlikely) Butterbean would be the one I'd want. I highly recommend YCIAWBS to mystery lovers, and also those who're looking for a good book with humor but also a lot of heart. That's what I look for in reading material, and this book has 5 Stars going for it. My thanks to Net Galley for allowing me to read and review this book.
  • (4/5)
    I liked this book enough to read it all the way to the end. It was cute, easy reading. A couple of themes were a bit tedious and annoying. The portrayal of the relationships amongst and between the humans and their pets was fun and I enjoyed reading about it. I must say, however, this book was nothing like what I was expecting, but that is not necessarily a bad thing!